There is a curious churn of population this week in the Augusta area, as thousands of residents stream out of town for spring break, leaving a vacuum quickly filled by visitors flocking to the area for the Masters Golf Tournament.
Many departing residents are traveling to Florida, taking advantage of a post-Sept. 11 Disney World promotion giving free admission to active-duty military. Others are getting out of the way of stampeding golf aficionados making their annual pilgrimage to the Augusta National Golf Club. Hordes of those incoming fans rent residents homes at prices high enough to make half a years mortgage payments, providing tax-free income fat enough to pay for spring break trips to the tropics.
Also getting out of the way this week are construction crews from the Georgia Department of Transportation, who are suspending their seemingly endless work on Interstate 20 during the week of the tournament. Fortunately for our guests, they wont have to experience the sometimes hours-long, bumper-to-bumper traffic jams from logging activity near Grovetown and highway repairs near Augusta.
Alas, the inconvenience resumes for local residents when the DOT puts their orange cones back up after the Masters ends.
All this, of course, is worth it because of the tremendous economic benefits from the tournament. The impact is so big that Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau President Barry White long ago stopped trying to compile the figures, now estimating it only as millions and millions of dollars.
Though the tournament takes place in Augusta, its impact is far too big to be confined to one area. Hotels for miles around fill up with guests who dont rent homes, spreading the tournament traffic beyond even Aiken, Columbia and McDuffie counties.
Sure, the Masters brings with it higher restaurant prices and snarled streets, aggravations to the many residents who dont give a hoot about golf. But the prestigious tournament represents a huge influx of money into the area - money that provides thousands of temporary jobs, augments thousands of others, and pumps millions into area sales-tax and hotel-motel tax coffers.
The best way to keep that money flowing in is through the common courtesies that Southerners revel in showing their guests. Politeness is the best way to ensure a return visit, and its the right thing to do.
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